Title: Dead Souls
Editor: Mark S. Deniz
Genre: Horror / Dark Fiction
Anthology: 25 Stories
Publisher: Morrigan Books
Dead Souls contains twenty five stories that will only ensure the darkness without enfolds you in its cold embrace…beware…be ready…be damned! Before God created light, there was darkness. Even after He illuminated the world, there were shadows — shadows that allowed the darkness to fester and infect the unwary. The tales found within Dead Souls explore the recesses of the spirit; those people and creatures that could not escape the shadows. From the inherent cruelness of humanity to malevolent forces, Dead Souls explores the depths of humanity as a lesson to the ignorant, the naive and the unsuspecting. God created light, but it is a temporary grace that will ultimately fail us, for the darkness is stronger and our souls…are truly dead.
|Bernie Mojzes||The Collector|
|T. A. Moore||Licwiglunga|
|Carole Johnstone||The Blind Man|
|Tom English||Dry Places|
|Sharon Irwin||Begin with Water|
|Robert Holt||In the Name|
|William Ward||When they Come to Murder Me|
|Chris Johnstone||The Unbedreamed|
|Catherine J. Gardner||When the Cloak Falls|
|Anna M. Lowther||The Price of Peace|
|James R. Stratton||Your Duty to your Lord|
|Kenneth C. Goldman||Mercy Hathaway is a Witch|
|Lisa Kessler||Immortal Beloved|
|Lisa Kessler||Subito Piano|
|Michael Stone||The Migrant|
|L. J. Hayward||Wayang Kulit|
|Ramsey Campbell||The Dead Must Die|
|Stephanie Campisi||The Ringing Sound of Death on the Water Tank|
|Gary McMahon||A Shade of Yellow|
|Kaaron Warren||The Blue Stream|
If ‘Dead Souls’ had a strong and enchanting gravity to lure the reader in with Genesis, which was inhabited by ghoulish and true to authenticity myths and old legends, then One Upon a Time will suck you in this quilt of nightmares, sorrows and surprisingly a few happy endings along the way.
As you might have guessed, Once Upon a Time has a fairy tale ring to it, but leave your tiaras and white ponies at home, because the five stories hosted are far from innocent and far from glitter, sparks and colors. In this segment we behold fairy tales with their original voice and intended for their initial audience and namely adults.
We begin our exploration with ‘The Unbedreamed’ by Christopher Johnstone, who takes on a small scale quest in Scotland, where Dughall, a hunter and peasant, sets to liberate his dreams and free will from a wicked warlock. What I liked here was the accidental nature of how the protagonist discovers the plot that has been executed by the warlock and his misshapen non-human henchman. This story reads like an old wife’s tale so to say, where the man uses his cunning wit to ensnare the dream thief and trick the warlock to his death.
Next up, we have ‘Goldenthread’ by Elizabeth Barrette, who sees in the stereotypical ‘dragon slayer, stalking in the dragon’s den’ trope an opportunity to insert magic and a disarming tale equivalent of a tear jerker ballad. The story does not feature action and does not have a point per se, but acts as a tragic memoir filled with pain and atrocities done upon the woman turned to a harp, telling her story to the one, who has come to slay the dragon. Enchanting.
‘When the Cloak Falls’ by Catherine J. Gardner is my least favorite from this lot, because it is rather vague and quick paced, which does not bode. I think that this is the story about a hunt for werewolves and ends in a death match between a werewolf and a nightmare, or possibly a kelpie. Although an interesting sequence of scenes to behold, the story bulleted through the events with little background or foreword.
‘The Price of Peace’ by Anna M. Lowther is longest and my top pick, because it takes a rather pleasant and optimistic story from my culture. This is the story about the snow girl, who from a human-shaped snow figure became a real girl as a gift to a couple, who couldn’t conceive a child of their own. This is a very sweet story, the way I have been hearing it since a child, but Lowther has taken it and run a ‘When Happy Endings Go Horribly Wrong’ and the snow girl becomes from a blessing to a primordial evil.
‘Your Duty to Your Lord’ by James R. Stratton exemplifies Japanese culture delivered with a dose of uncontrived realism and dimensions to it. I’ve a fondness for settings. So the diversity in the culture portrayed kept my interest to see where this one leads. There are no speculative fiction elements, if you don’t count the obsessive and ritualistic relationship Japanese have with honor, loyalty, debts and vows. The protagonist is a nobody, who has been granted a life by a Lord and in return, she sacrifices her life in order to preserve the history of the clan of her Lord from a fire. A really solemn story.